Monday, January 3, 2011

Reflections on #bookaday

Over Christmas break, Donalyn Miller and other "Twitter Friends" organized #bookaday- the goal literally was to read a book a day. Don't know that I reached that goal, but I did read a lot.

Here is the list, as best as I can remember:
1) Moon Over Manifest- Claire Vanderpol
2) Countdown- Debra Wiles
3) Because of Mr. Terupt- Rob Buyea
4) The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda- Tom Anglebarger
5) The Secret Life of Ms. Finkelman
6) Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Takes Off
7) Bink and Gollie- Kate DiCamillo
8) Lulu and the Brontosaurus- Judith Viorst
9) 13 Words- Lemony Snicket
10) Mr. Putney's Quacking Dog
11) A Sick Day for Amos McGee
12) Once Upon a Royal Superbaby
13) Children Make Terrible Pets
14) I also read about two thirds of Pat Conroy's My Reading Life and not quite half of The Book Thief
15) And I reread and reread and reread about twenty of the CYBILS picture books in preparation for the panel's selection of semifinalists.

It was great to spend so much time reading (although looking at my house right now, some people might argue with that). Because reading like this, and "chatting" with people about reading reminded me of some big and important truths:

1) Reading is about community, about connections, relationships, talking about books, sharing titles, saying, "I loved that too."
I loved getting to do all of this reading, catching up on my novels, reading a few books that people think might win the Newbery, etc. But what I loved even more was "talking" to folks about books. I "met" so, so, so many nice people on line through "bookaday." And had so many great conversations. And added so many great books to my TBR pile. I also loved my face to face conversations with my book club, who has been together for fifteen years, now, and sharing coffee with The Boy Reader (who so should try Twitter but so far hasn't) and talking about books with my good friend, Patrick (coloreader).

2) Reading is not about competition or completing a certain number of pages. I am an over achiever. If I am supposed to read a book a day, by gosh, that is what I will do. The problem with this, however, was that several of the books I read during #bookaday were pretty long. THE BOOK THIEF, for example, was over five hundred pages. The subject matter, at least so far, is really heavy. I couldn't read that in a day. And yet some part of me, in the back of my head, was telling me that I "failed" at bookaday because I didn't read a whole book every day. (PLEASE NOTE: That wasn't anyone else's assessment of the situation, no one was grading me. - it was only my own inner critic talking!)

3) You don't always have to read books "at your level" whatever that means.
I have a Ph.D in reading and writing instruction. I read a lot. Growing up, I was always an "Eagle" never a dodo bird. That means that I should be able to read pretty hard books, right? But you know what? I don't always want to read hard books. I don't usually want to read hard books. I would much rather read three shorter middle grade novels than one really long one. Or some days I just want to go to Tattered Cover and sit and read picture books for an hour (or two or three). And that's fine. Why then, for Pete's sake, do we insist on kids reading books "at their level" (whatever that means) all the time, or even most of the time? The best reader in the sixth grade, who could probably easily read and understand THE BOOK THIEF should be allowed to read ORIGAMI YODA or any other book she wants. And the worst reader in the class, the kid who struggles and struggles and struggles to make sense of print, should be allowed to read ORIGAMI YODA too. No one should be telling anyone what they can or can't read. "Level," whatever that means, is about a whole lot more than how many words are on a page, or how many mistakes a reader makes while they read those words. Sometimes "level" is simply about interest or being part of the reading club in your classroom.

3) I didn't make dioramas or take tests on anything I read. I didn't even keep very good track.
Lots of people have written about that whole take a test or do a project approach to reading, so I'm not going to. I am also not going to write about the benefits on an online record keeping system, e.g. Goodreads. Lots of people in #bookaday keep track of what they have read through this system. I tried that over break, but I seriously doubt that I will continue. It just adds one more layer that I don't want or need to my reading.

I did blog, on some of the books. I started the blog three years ago, because I wanted to learn to do something new. I'm really thinking about its purpose now, however. I like blogging, but more than the actual writing about the books, I love the connections I have made with other people (that community thing again). And lots of the books I blog about are books other people have already blogged about. And I only have 19 followers. So maybe I don't need to blog. Or maybe I need to figure out something new and different to blog about.

4) The more complicated we make the program and record keeping, the less actual reading gets done.
I read. I blog. Then I go on Goodreads and I'm supposed to make another comment. "What a minute!" I think. Didn't I already say something like this on my blog. Yeah, I did, but because I am a little compulsive about a few things, e.g. reading (not housework) I say the same stuff again. And pretty soon I have eaten up fifteen minutes that I could have been reading (or cleaning).

5) It's ok to nibble a book a little at a time.
There are some books, e.g. ORIGAMI YODA that I gobbled at one sitting. There are other books, however, that took me much longer. Pat Conroy's MY READING LIFE, for example, really isn't meant to be gobbled. Nor is it meant to be read at 2 am on New Year's Eve when I was waiting for my son to get home from his girlfriend's house. MY READING LIFE is rich and beautifully crafted and full of gems I wanted to remember. I wanted to stop and write them down and think about them (I checked the book out from the library, otherwise I would have been writing all over it). I will probably end up buying this book. And reading, and rereading, and rereading. And that's ok. Some books are meant to be nibbled, a little at a time.

6) Certain books are meant for certain times in a reader's life.
THE BOOK THIEF is deep and dark and complex. I have wanted to read it for a long time, and when a colleague gave it to me I was thrilled. It was the first book on my TBR stack. I didn't finish it this break however. 2010 was a hard, hard, hard year for me. I also have a hard time with winter, when it's cold outside, and when the darkness comes so early. I wasn't up for reading THE BOOK THIEF. I will probably finish it, but I'm not sure if that will be 15 or 2o pages a night, or if I will wait until this summer, when I am in a better head space, and the world isn't so dark and the earth isn't so cold.

7) When I read more, I think more. And writing comes more easily.
But that is a subject for another day, because now I have to go back to work...


Ruth Ayres said...

Thanks for this post, Carol. I love when I'm reminded of "big, important truths."

I found myself nodding in agreement throughout your post. I especially understand the idea of a right time for a book. Hold on to The Book Thief. When the time is right, it is remarkable. (In fact, I'm a little jealous that you get to read it for the first time.)

Wishing you well in 2011. May it be a year of restoration.

Happy reading & writing,

Nanc said...

Oh, Carol...please don't stop your blog. Do I count as a follower? I don't always respond, but I love to hear what you say about books and parenting your beautiful boys! You give me inspiration and I showed your blog to my graduate class as the one I always check out, almost every day. I'm starting to read some of the classics that I loved when I was younger...I 'm also want to read YA again...I've stopped when I went to primary...but I want to catch up.

Laura Lynn Benson said...

This quote reflects your brilliant heart and the love and connections you give to all children - yours and those you shepherd at school.

Love you, Sister! xoxoxo

Toni Morrison said that what every child wants to know is:
Do your eyes light up when I enter the room? Did you hear me and did what I say mean anything to you?

Jill Fisch said...

Great post. I love your blog but I am not sure if I am included in your number of followers either since I haven't "followed" your blog but instead I added it to my Google Reader. I always read your posts first when they come into my Reader. I just put Pat Conroy's book on hold based on your blog post about it.
Thanks for sharing.